Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Top Twenty Games In 19th Century St. Louis Baseball History: # 19

19. October 15, 1885: St. Louis Browns vs. Chicago White Stockings

The first game at Sportman's Park between the Chicago Club and the Browns proved a poor contest, very badly umpired and terminating in a forfeiture by the home club to the visitors, the end being attended by a scene of excitement and confusion that was rarely, if ever, been equaled at any previous ball game in this city. Sullivan, the League umpire, came down from Chicago to act in the game, and a more unfortunate selection could not have been made. In the first inning he gave Kelly out at second on a steal, when nearly everybody thought the runner was safe. In the third he more than evened up matters by declaring foul a safe hit to right by Foutz, who, on the hit and a fumble by Clarkson, reached second, from which he was called back. This decision aroused the spectators to great indignation and Sullivan was loudly and roundly denounced. When, in the third inning, Barkley was called out on a ball that was above his head, another storm of hissing and shouts of "Get another umpire" followed. During the fourth and fifth inning nothing especially exciting occurred, but in the first half of the sixth a crisis was reached. After Sunday had led off with a double to right and gone to third on a passed ball, Kelley hit a grounder to Gleason, who fumbled and then threw to first, clearly putting out Kelley. Sunday scored on the play and Kelley was decided "safe." While the crowd uttered exclamations of amazements, some of the more impetuous shouted "robbery." Comiskey came in off the field, protested against the decision, and objected to Sullivan umpiring any longer. Sullivan immediately went to the players' bench, put on his coat and sat down. Anson refused to permit a change of umpires, and a long wrangle followed. Finally Hon. John J. O'Neill stepped out of the grand stand into the field and joined the wrangling players. Anson asked what his business was on the field, and the answer was, "That's none of your business."

"Well, it is my business, and you have no business on the field," retorted the big captain of the Chicago team.

"I am the President of the club," said the Representative of the Eighth District.

"I always thought Von der Ahe was the President," remarked Anson as he was very suspiciously eyed the M.C.

"Well, I'm the Vice President of the club, and in the absence of the President from the city the Vice President takes his place, don't he?" was the rejoinder of the friend of the laboring man.

The upshot of it was that O'Neill remained and the game proceeded.

Kelly quickly stole second, took third on a wild pitch, and scored on a single to center by Anson. Pfeffer raised a fly to short right and Nicol muffed it, but threw Anson out at second, while Pfeffer secured his base. After Pfeffer had stolen second Williamson hit a slow grounder along the line to first. The ball was spinning as it traveled, and when near first base it reached the outside of the base line it struck the edge of the turf and turned so sharply inside the line that Comiskey failed to stop, and it struck the inside of the bag and ran a short distance beyond it. Meanwhile somebody shouted "Foul!" Pfeffer ran in from second and Williamson, after hesitating when the ball was outside the line, made a dash when it changed its course and reached first in safety. Comiskey claimed that the ball was foul, Sullivan insisted that it was fair, but Comiskey said it was not under American Association rules, to which Anson answered by calling for the rules. Another squabble was followed by Comiskey calling his men off the field. There was a rush of spectators into the field and while one crowd gathered around Anson, Superintendent Solari and a special officer escorted Sullivan off the field, a second crowd following them to the gate and abusing Sullivan at every step.

By leaving the field Comiskey made a serious blunder, for the rules made it the imperative duty of the umpire to declare the game forfeited, and while the act caused the home team the irretrievable loss of a game that they had a chance to win, it also gave to the backers of the Chicago Club considerable money that was wagered on the result. Under all rules the ball was a fair one, and the umpire was in no way to blame for the deceptive course it took. It was generally believed that Sullivan had called the ball "foul," but this he denies, and is supported in his denial by Robinson, the home catcher, who asserted that it was Anson who made the call in question; but even if he had declared it "foul" before it had passed inside the line, he would have been obliged to correct his decision and declare "fair."

Anson stated that he had not brought Sullivan here, that the Browns brought him, and he was their selection. Sullivan admitted that he was rattled, but said members of the home team stood near him and abused him from the first inning, and having no way to protect himself against their insults, he could not help getting excited. When the game stopped the score stood 5 to 4 in favor of the Chicagos, on uneven innings. The Browns scored 3 in the first inning and 1 in the fourth. The Chicagos scored 1 in the first, 1 in the second and had made 3 in the sixth, with one man out, when the game broke up. The game will go on record as 9 to 0 in favor of Chicago.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 16, 1885

This was the second game of the 1885 World's Championship series and, in the past, I've covered this game in detail.

This was one of the most controversial games in 19th century St. Louis baseball history and it can be argued that it cost the Browns the 1885 championship.  I don't really agree with that but, as the series ended up a tie, if the Browns had pulled this game out, they would have had an undisputed championship.  They claimed it anyway but that's kind of beside the point.

That lost or disputed championship, I believe, tarnishes the historical reputation of the Four Time Champions and therein lies the true significance of this game.  If the Browns had not walked off the field and come back to win the game, they would have finished 2-2 against the NL in post-season play rather than 1-2-1.  Their defeats in 1887 and 1888 were rather severe and I think that plays a role in the argument that the NL was superior to the AA.  If the Browns had broke even in the post-season against the NL, the argument for the Browns as a historically great team and for the quality of play in the AA would have been greatly strengthened.  In that sense, this game changed history.  It helped to create our perception of 19th century baseball and that makes it rather significant.    

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